Obituary: Richard T. Murphy Sr.'s business had deep family roots

  • Article by: MIKE HUGHLETT , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 10, 2012 - 11:26 PM

Richard Murphy Sr.

Richard T. Murphy Sr. could appreciate the long arc of his family's business, which dates to the horse-drawn cart era. The lifelong St. Paul resident and longtime head of Minneapolis-based Murphy Warehouse had a passion for history.

Murphy, a past president of the Minnesota Historical Society who navigated his business through the tribulations of trucking deregulation, died on May 1 of natural causes. He was 87.

The Murphy family business began in St. Paul in 1904, when Murphy's grandfather Edward Murphy bought two horses and a wagon. That cartage operation grew into one of St. Paul's earliest trucking businesses.

By age 13, Richard had been inaugurated into the family business, washing trucks during the summer, said Laurie Murphy, one of his five children and vice president of Murphy Warehouse. He became a truck dispatcher in 1948, the same year he married Helen Duffy, the 1947 St. Paul Winter Carnival queen.

Murphy would rise to president about four years later, and in the early 1960s, he created a warehouse operation. But in 1980, the U.S. trucking industry was deregulated, bringing tumult to the trucking and warehousing world.

E.L. Murphy Trucking, like scores of truck lines at the time, didn't survive deregulation, succumbing in 1985 with about $25 million in revenue. But Richard Murphy redoubled efforts on the warehouse company, which by 2005 had nearly $30 million in revenue.

Today, Murphy Warehouse, which is headed by Murphy's son Richard Jr., employs almost 200 and has 10 facilities in Minnesota and one in Kansas. The family also operates Murphy Rigging & Erecting, a company dating back to 1904.

Murphy, a 1946 graduate of the University of Minnesota, was involved in several industry associations and civic efforts, but he had a special love for historical societies.

His interest in history started when an uncle would regale a young Richard with personal tales of World War I battles, said his sister Carole Faricy. "From that point on, he was a real history buff."

In addition to his work with the state's historical society, Murphy served as president of the Ramsey County Historical Society and was affiliated with several preservation groups. He played a key role in saving an early 20th century schoolhouse near Two Harbors, which today is the Larsmont Community Center. He painted the building himself every year or so -- red with white trim. "He loved to paint, that was his release," said his daughter Laurie. "And he always painted with a brush." No rollers allowed.

Murphy reveled in his own Irish history -- his family came to St. Paul in the late 1800s -- and he was a devout Catholic. Murphy chaired the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis' 150th anniversary celebration and for a time headed the Catholic Defense League of Minnesota.

He is preceded in death by his wife of 63 years and survived by his five children, nine grandchildren and two sisters. Funeral services are scheduled for Friday. A Murphy Rigging truck is serving as his hearse.

Mike Hughlett • 612-673-7003

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